'Swimmers being towed - who’s checking?'
On a sailing boat, which can be the safest of all modes of travel when common sense and good seamanship is involved, death can be only moments away for the careless. Do YOU go swimming when you are out sailing? What are your rules about this? Kenneth C Hoffman tells this simple tale that we can all relate to and demonstrates just how near death can be for the unwary.
Excitedly, I got off the phone announcing to my wife, Marianne, that we were invited to vacation with my brother and his wife. They offered to take us out on their twenty-seven foot boat on a huge lake for a sailing adventure. Marianne's face twisted in revulsion, stating that she would never go out on a sailboat, that I could go but she would stay home!
I couldn't believe she would pass up this opportunity for a wonderful trip on a luxurious sailboat. I had grown up on a lake and loved the water but Marianne was raised in the city and furthermore couldn't help remembering forever a long ago traumatic experience that could have taken her life and has kept her from sailing forever:
It was in Munich after the war. Fifteen year old Marianne worked in a knitting store as an apprentice. One day her boss came to her and offered to take her along on a Sunday sailboat ride with friends of theirs. Marianne agreed and the next day wore her swim suit under her clothes and took the subway to her boss' house. An hour and a half later, she found herself sailing along merrily on a beautiful day with just the right breeze.
As the day wore on, the day grew quite warm. Her boss asked Marianne if she would like to cool off in the water. She could hold on to the rope and be slowly pulled along by the boat. Thinking this was a good idea, Marianne allowed herself to be lowered to the water, taking a good grip on the rope.
The water was deliciously cool and in ten minutes, she felt cool enough to get out. She could see the heads of her fellow guests on the other side of the boat playing cards, so she waited a while for someone to come along and help her out. Soon her body began to shiver in the cold water and her fingers were becoming numb from holding on to the rope. The strength started to go out of her fingers and, trying not to cry, she wound the roped several time around her wrist for more holding power. Her arms were beginning to tire and in the waning light of dusk, a blue tinge covered her skin.
Now in a panic, Marianne screamed for somebody to help her but no-one answered her cries. The constant pounding of the waves were draining her body of strength and she knew that any minute she would have to let go and probably be left to drown in the black waters.
Finally, her boss appeared above the railing, shocked at what he saw, yelling for her to hang on while he pulled her up.
Marianne's shaking blue body was slowly dragged over the railing to safety, her relief marred by the realization that the strap holding up the top of her bathing suit had snapped with the effort of her rescue, exposing her breasts to her boss and friends.
'Oopala', commented her boss as she lay half naked on the deck. The shock of the cold water and her nudity quickly turned her embarrassment to anger.
How could they have let this happen? Didn't they care what happened to their guests?
The next day at work, no mention of the fiasco passed their lips but a secret vow lay fresh on Marianne's mind never to board a sailboat again.
Today Marianne tells this story with a twinkle in her eye - but still won't go out on a sailing boat.
How many rules do you think this skipper/captain broke?
Swimming and sailing - what are your rules? - .. .
by Kenneth Hoffman
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3:00 PM Mon 3 Feb 2014GMT
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